Inquiry wanted after police cleared in shooting
WINNIPEG - A public inquiry is needed to heal the rift between police and aboriginals after a judge's report cleared Winnipeg officers in the fatal shooting of a native man, the victim's family and native leaders said Thursday.
They say Matthew Dumas, 18, is one of several aboriginals who have recently lost their lives during altercations with police and an inquiry would help soothe tensions in a province where many aboriginals feel racially targeted.
"In the end, Matthew was simply just walking home and within four minutes of coming into contact with the police, he was dead," said his sister Jessica Dumas. "It's a really difficult situation that we have to deal with. I don't have any faith in the system."
Dumas was walking in north Winnipeg in January 2005 when he was stopped for questioning by police who were responding to a reported robbery. The inquest heard Dumas apparently shoved one of the officers to the ground and ran away. He was chased and got into a confrontation with another officer.
When Dumas came at the officer with a screwdriver, he was pepper-sprayed and warned to drop his weapon. As Dumas got within two metres of the constable, the officer pulled the trigger.
Inquest Judge Mary Curtis concluded Dumas died as a result of his own actions and not because of racism on the part of police. She recommended training for new recruits who may face a similar situation.
But that's not good enough for Dumas's mother, Carol Chartrand.
"You put yourself in my shoes and ask me if that's enough," an emotional Chartrand said.
"You tell me about your boy lying there six feet under. You tell me about designing that headstone and putting it there, going to visit it for the last four years.
"That's not enough."
Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, said Dumas isn't the first aboriginal to suffer at the hands of police. Within a span of two weeks this summer, Michael Langan, 17, died after being Tasered by officers and Craig McDougall, 26, was shot. Police said both men were brandishing knives, but the explanation has done little to quell the outrage.
Aboriginals are disproportionately represented in the province's jails, but make up less than 10 per cent of the Winnipeg police force, Shannacappo said.
Only a full-blown public inquiry would help improve relations between aboriginals and police, said Shannacappo, who once called police the "No. 1 gang in the city."
"I'm hoping what would come out of it would be to have that directive to the police force to engage in good cultural awareness, to understand us, that we are not a bad people. "Our people went through a lot."